Boomtown Optimism

10 Aug

A few nights ago, I had the opportunity to socialize with a lot of the powers-that-be in Williston. Entrepreneurs, city officials, hospital administrators, the president of the college — people who aren’t here to make a quick buck. People that really care.

So many people come to Williston to work 80-hour weeks in the oilfield and then fly out of here as fast as they can. Now, we’re starting to get people who come up for the secondary jobs, which is great, but everyone’s here for the money. I’m here for the money.

But there’s something here other than money.

There’s construction on every corner. The city government running its tail off, trying to catch up with a population of 50,000 in a town built for 12,000. There’s excitement.

Some of the people who have lived here forever don’t like it. Their home was taken away. These new people come in, and they don’t bring their families, they don’t care about becoming a part of the community.

But some people see it as a chance. It’s a chance to build a $70 million recreation center. A chance to find a way to create community where it’s been lost. A chance to improve infrastructure and start businesses and turn this into a better version of the place that it was. This is still a small town, where all of the big shots will sit around and have a beer at the sports bar because there aren’t fancy five-star places to go and, for the most part, they aren’t fancy five-star people. They’re just people with the resources and the time and the desire to make this place better.

If I had come here alone, my experience would be very different. I would probably be bussing tables at Applebee’s and living in a trailer with three roommates. That happens to a lot of people out here.

But I got lucky. I met these people who are trying to fix it, and they decided they like me. They helped me get a great job. They helped me find a place to live (and I might have an even better option coming up when I get back from home). They’ve introduced me to the people you want to know in this town.

Because there are the transients. The people who are here to make money and get out, who do nothing in their spare time but drink. But there are also the people who’ve put down roots and care and are doing something about it. And that’s not anything to scoff at.

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